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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

Holiday on Hold

Updated: Dec 4, 2022

a small notebook with 2020 plan B written on it

Over the past three years I have written blog posts listing lessons learned from hosting dozens of family members over the holidays. Last year’s post was titled: “Lessons from a full house – Year 3."

In contrast, this year’s post could have been titled “Lessons from an empty house.” Like many families, we spent Christmas 2020 apart rather than together. Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly, the lessons we learned this year and in past years were fundamentally the same:

Be prepared

Whether holiday gatherings include many guests or none at all, being prepared makes for more pleasant and peaceful celebrations. Consider all the ways you can plan and prepare ahead: Prepare and freeze food to simplify meals. Order presents early. Basically, being prepared = making your list and checking it twice.

This year “being prepared” involved making preparations for just our immediate family to gather together and we all agreed to stay as removed from public as possible for the week before we gathered.

A late edition to this gathering included my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, who decided to come for an extended stay to be near our aging mother. To prepare for their visit, we rented a condo and outfitted it for their stay. They quarantined upon arrival for a week as well.

In 2020, being prepared meant preparing to follow the next lesson…

Stay flexible

Flexibility during holiday celebrations is always in order and 2020 was no exception. Our week-long quarantine for the out-of-state travelers ended with an invitation to join us for dinner on December 23rd, one day before the rest of the family was scheduled to arrive.

We received a phone call on the morning of Christmas Eve stating they had all woken with some mild COVID symptoms. To be on the safe side, they went to a Med Express clinic nearby and had quick-result tests. All three were positive. Oh my! It was time to “stay flexible.”

Our children and grandchildren were expected to arrive later that day and a quick group text was sent with the news of a need to change our plans. When expectations of spending Christmas at your grandparent’s house are changed at the last minute, disappointment is natural and more than a few tears are shed.

Flexibility involved figuring out how long before we needed to be tested, when we could safely gather based on either negative or positive results, and what everyone could do for an alternate celebration on Christmas Day.

Two of our children and their children live in the Indianapolis area and they got together on Christmas for a cobbled-together meal and exchange of gifts. They had a great time. We enjoyed seeing one another over FaceTime and included the great-grandmothers in our phone calls.

Christmas joy was saved because it was our goal to…

Keep positive

More than any other lesson has been the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. No blaming or bitterness allowed. We are thankful for family to miss being with and very thankful for negative COVID tests this week!

Positivity includes making the best of a bad situation. We are enjoying our solitude and empty calendars with lots of time to read and watch Netflix. We may not be in person with our loved ones, but we’ve read Christmas stories over FaceTime, had a Zoom family gathering, and sent and received lots of videos and photos via our family photo stream.

When we do gather in January, the gift opening will be more relaxed and the gifts more appreciated. The advance food preps will make for more peaceful meal preparation on that day, and even now we are benefitting from meals made ahead.

All too often, Christmas feels like it comes and goes too quickly. This year I intend to savor our holiday on hold. Christmas isn’t just for December 25th and we are better off when we celebrate it all year.

As we enter 2021, let’s take the lessons of 2020 along – be prepared, stay flexible, and keep positive.

“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.” ~ Helen Steiner Rice

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